Corporate event planning sets a series of goals – manage investments carefully, deliver content purposefully, design scenic creatively, use time wisely, etc. – all under the overarching goal to engage attendees consistently.
With technology offering advances for production, storytelling and social impact, event planners are being reminded to get back to basics if you want to truly deliver an experience.
Get in tune with your attendees by incorporating these 20 event planning trends for 2020:
1) “Give Back” community time
Millennials are a large part of the workforce today – and ultimately, your attendee list. They’re passionate about issues, not institutions:
“Millennials consider a company’s cause record when applying for employment, and they participate in employee giving campaigns based on the cause rather than the employer.” – The Millennial Impact Program
Reward that desire for purpose with thoughtful, interactive “give back efforts” that help the local community where your event is taking place.
2) Short/varied presentation styles
There is more than one way to skin a presentation. Follow a keynote with an interview style chat and cap it off with a “Pardon the Interruption” style back and forth a la ESPN to get the rest of the message across. Use entertainment as interstitials throughout.
Keep timing in mind – less is more – and the more you keep your attendees guessing, the more engaged they’ll remain.
3) Wellness-oriented agendas
Have a smoothie bar outside of expo? You’re on the right path. Sure, the 5Ks and yoga mornings have become a mainstay on the agenda – but is your app tracking steps and rewarding attendees? Have you replaced cookies and coffee with granola bars and fresh fruit? Does your expo have a repeating chair yoga class for attendees looking to reset? Does your agenda give sufficient rest time for attendees?
Exercise + Enthusiasm + Fun = Energy and increased thought production.
4) Instant registration processes
Automation through the use of Chatbots, ultra-quick analysis of data, and AI will enhance the registration process in corporate events. Anything you can do to make the onsite registration a breeze will go a long way.
This is the first time your attendees are interacting with the conference – how are you making it unique to your brand?
5) Surprise and delight micro-moments
So, your keynote killed and everyone leaves inspired and happy — what if that speaker appears unannounced later that day in the expo hall signing books and taking pictures against an event branded step and repeat? Find the micro moments that will “go viral” within your conference and leave your attendees exhilarated.
Most of the time, there’s not even a cost involved, just creativity.
6) Digital livestream broadcasts
Livestream broadcasts enable attendees to participate who couldn’t attend physically – plus, they enhance the experience for onsite attendees who get to be interviewed or see their requested topic covered live. If possible, dedicated a channel within your hotel block’s in room entertainment that shows the broadcasts on repeat to give attendees some relevant entertainment while ironing that day’s pants.
For the non-attendee: Statistics show those who participate digitally will try to get there physically next time.
7) “Choose Your Own Adventure” tracks
This option enables attendees to design their own unique adventure. You’re probably already using tracks to ensure everyone knows what content is where, but how deep have you delved into personalization?
Everyone enjoys being able to personalize their learning desires. Maybe leave a session block open and crowdsource the topic every day/night.
8) Chatbot event personalities
AI-powered event Chatbots are making corporate event planning a lot easier by answering basic event questions for attendees. By completing tasks usually done by humans they have become cost-effective and easy to use – but the best part is the persona that you can put behind them. Give your chatbot a name related to your conference and build its personality out like you would a mascot.
You’ll love reviewing the queries that come through and it will help inform future content and collateral your event needs.
9) Analog vs. Digital in exhibit halls
We live in an analog world but digital seems to operate with less interference in exhibit halls. Analog and digital working together bring about the best results. This is always a fun brainstorm exercise with your event team and especially your sponsors looking to activate in unique ways across the expo hall.
While apps shred friction and virtual reality introduce escape, analog activations are tangible, interactive touch points that, when done purposefully, create the buzz you’re looking for.
10) Unique, comfy seating everywhere
You’ve hit your goal of putting butts in seats – now make sure they’re comfortable.
Seating at corporate events is crucial to the very outcome and success of networking. The design and arrangement have a powerful influence and impact on those involved in a breakout, workshop, brain date and even in unplugged, mindful areas. Take a look at layouts that are conducive to comfort and learning – then carve out the budget to go beyond ordinary.
11) 3D, layered scenic elements
3D layered stage scenic is used to produce that amazing effect on screen and wrap the attendee within the experience, as well as enhance the virtual reality aspect of your corporate events being livestreamed for the non-attendee.
Similar to the “wow” it accomplishes for Broadway musicals, mixing 2D and 3D elements to help make the production pop is a strategic way to kick up the perceived value of your set.
12) Wearable/data-forward RFID tech
Radio-frequency identification wristbands are an asset to corporate events. Attendees can link their credit cards directly to the RFID, save time through registration, design their own adventure and conveniently shop onsite.
Plus, data analysts rejoice with all the measured metrics that are available when you design your event around wearable tech.
13) Event security priorities
On the heels of wearable technology, brands and attendees need to be protected from their information being hacked digitally. By implementing strong data security practices, event marketers keep their data safe.
Be sure to communicate to attendees how their data is being protected and always follow country and state laws in regards to data collection and distribution.
14) Diverse voices celebrated
Diversity and inclusivity is already on your radar, but is it getting the attention it deserves for your event? Do you have a diversity/inclusion team that you can consult with at your organization?
To start: Consider keynote speakers from outside your industry who have a message that ties in with yours. Attendees want to be challenged and look at issues from a different perspective and are open – nay, begging – for a more diverse stage to match our more diverse times.
15) Mindfulness areas to unplug
These areas could offer tech free zones, meditation, “brain breaks” designed to inspire creativity, or a nature trail walk outside.
Similar to the wellness initiatives, it unplugs your attendee at their pace and gives them a place to digest all the motivational, inspiring content you’re throwing at them.
16) Sustainable logistics initiatives
Sustainable events will be the new norm for 2020 – it’s the press for events to be planned in a way that will have a minimal environmental impact. From F&B to swag to content – what is the most sustainable (while still engaging!) way to deliver that to attendees?
Plenty of events have been experimenting with different methods so there’s plenty of information to learn from. At the end of the day, make it unique to your event. Often, brands are finding that being sustainable tends to leave more money in the budget too!
17) Reciprocal brain dates
Attendees want more face-to-face time – especially with people who can help them or who they can help. Eliminate the awkwardness of networking off-screen with organized brain dates – typically found via an app that matches roles, interests, problems, etc. to find the perfect person to share a discussion.
Create a shared space within expo or outside where attendees can match up with like-minded people who have similar experiences to share and, ideally, solutions.
18) Location-based breakouts
The excitement of going somewhere new sparks the creative urge to explore. Reward that behavior by first, picking destinations that will appeal to your attendees, and second, letting them spend time in those places. It doesn’t have to be limited to opening receptions or sponsor parties – plan your educational breakouts in their natural habitat and get outside.
Weather-permitting, walk through a new city to get there or organize transportation – travel, even if it’s light, helps spark the networking and team building attendees are looking for. Remember: The message has an increased chance of being memorable when it’s delivered as an experience.
19) Networking via festivalization
This breaks down to creating an energetic environment that matches your attendees “wants” just as much as “needs.”
Corporate event attendees want to have fun while networking. Every event planner wishes they were working on Comic-Con, SXSW or Dreamforce, but it shouldn’t stop you from bringing elements from those to your event. It comes down to working more closely with speakers, sponsors, exhibitors, etc. to deliver relevant, purposeful interactions with attendees.
20) Non-traditional venues
Attendees want a location that makes a statement. Remember, unusual is more likely to go viral and breed excitement and anticipation for the next year’s annual event. To get attendees obsessing over their surroundings, choose non-traditional venues that inspire “instagrammable moments.” Here are a few settings that are becoming popular: art galleries, museums, music festivals, barns, gardens and warehouses. Blanket them in branding and experiences and stand back.
Knowledge is everywhere and the setting can help reinforce your message. Design an event that enables your attendees to experience learning in a new, memorable way.
Start Designing Corporate Events that Engage Attendees
Make your 2020 events special by getting back to the basics as you explore these 20 event production trends.
WRITER’S NOTE: These trends were based off the great results we’re seeing with CPG Agency’s client partners as well as the inspiration we take from industry conference leaders like PCMA and Event Marketer.